With a pair of golfers near the top of their game and just six strokes separating four teams, the Southwest Minnesota State University women's golf team finds itself in a position of strength entering the Norther Sun Intercollegiate Conference Spring Championships today and Sunday.
The event was initially set to be played at Dacotah Ridge Golf Club in Morton, but unplayable conditions forced the relocation of the NSIC finale to the Paradise Pointe Golf Club (Posse Course) in Smithville, Mo.
SMSU found out about the change in venue April 12. Despite his team not being able to practice at all on its home course this season due to the weather, SMSU head coach coach Ross Webskowski said his golfers should be prepared for what's ahead.
"We've played in two tournaments in Missouri over the past few weeks and we've tried to come down and play the course the day before, tried to hit the range, tried to do some chipping and putting" Webskowski said. "We were really just trying to maximize our time at the competition sites.
"Without practice, it hasn't really hurt us. I think we're playing about the same as we would with regular practice. The team should be ready to go."
The Mustangs enter the 36-hole tournament sitting in seventh place of the 13-team championship after the first two rounds of play at The Classic at Madden's in Brainerd on Oct. 6-7. SMSU shot a two-round score of 736 (160-over-par) in the fall and is 90 strokes behind first-place Augustana College (646). The Vikings lead second-place Minnesota State-Mankato by 50 strokes.
Looking past the remarkable lead held by Augustana, the bulk of the pack is clumped together. Upper Iowa and the University of Sioux Falls are tied for fourth with team scores of 730. St. Cloud State follows in sixth at 732, with SMSU just behind in seventh. Winona State is nine shots back of the Mustangs in eighth. A strong weekend for the SMSU golfers could result in a top-half finish for the Mustangs in the conference.
Lending optimism to the Mustang cause has been the play of senior Krista Weiszhaar and junior Marissa Campeau. Weiszhaar was named the NSIC golfer of the week on April 3, while Campeau was most recently bestowed the honor on Wednesday following her seventh-place finish at the Green and Gold Classic in St. Joseph, Mo., and Maryville, Mo., April 13-14.
Weiszhaar is currently second on the Mustangs with a 36-hole total of 183 and tied for 25th overall, though Campeau had a tougher outing in Brainerd shooting a 195 and sitting in 43rd place.
"I think Krista is one of the best players in the conference and she has a lot to play for," Webskowski said. "Being a senior, she's going to want to do well in her last conference championship meet.
"And Marissa has hit the ball well all spring. Last week she was able to putt the ball well and her short game really came together, which was good to see. Her confidence level is very high."
Leading the Mustangs at the midway point in the tournament is junior Rachel Patnoe with a 36-hole total of 181 (37-over-par). She is in a tie for 23rd place.
Also competing for the Mustangs at the Spring Championships are freshmen Becky Koepp and Emaleigh Vreeman. Koepp is tied for 33rd with a 190 entering the weekend, and Vreeman is a stroke back and tied for 35th.
Webskowski said the team's chances for qualifying for the NCAA Central Region Championships, which are on May 5-7 at St. Joseph Country Club in St. Joseph, Mo., are slim. The top nine teams in the Central Region Rankings advance and the Mustangs are not currently ranked in the NCAA Central Region. But he said Weiszhaar and Campeau both have a shot to make the region tournament as individuals if they play well this weekend.
Augustana's Allie Ostrander is the overall leader in the tournament having shot an 11-over-par 155 at Madden's.
Today's third round begins with a 9 a.m. shotgun start, while Sunday's final round is slated to begin with an 8 a.m. shotgun start.